Working With Environmental Scientists in Aljezur, Portugal
We’ve been exploring how to embed data collection, management and sharing skills into fieldwork training as part of this ERASMUS-funded project.
Scientific data collected as part of training students in learning field skills is usually not part of an official ‘experiment’ and therefore is not kept after the training is complete. We wanted to see if we could create an easy way to capture and store the data students collect each session. Similar to data collected by cItizen scientists, student collected data can provide long-term trends and baseline values over time, and can be added to year after year.
At the CERES Field Study Centre in Portugal (http://ceresinternational.org/) we worked with three different groups of field research leaders to look at how raw data is collected as part of fieldwork, processed during analysis, presented in student research, and when (and if) it is shared with other local researchers.
There are a number of obstacles to the raw data being stored and made available to share, including a lack of confidence in the data due to the novice level of the students collecting the data, the difficulty of translating captured data into forms that are portable between researchers, and between researchers and laypeople, and in some cases, the policies of the students’ home institutions.
Some of these difficulties can be addressed by more consistent training and experiment design between groups to limit the variability of the data collected. We set up online communication tools, and a shared directory of resources, using them both during the workshop to make sure the researchers were comfortable with the tools, collaborating with each other, and developing their professional network.
We have used the intelligence and feedback gathered from this course to develop targeted training for field researchers in partnership with CERES. The shared communication tools and drives for linking resources and data have enabled participants to continue to share best practices and other resources with each other since they’ve finished the course. This will enable them to maintain and continue a sense of collaboration which can be passed on to their students. Eventually there may be a desire for a dedicated data store for the group to use for collaborating with their datasets.